Welcome back, readers.
New Keywords! This week’s guest is games academic, legal scholar, and loot box expert Leon Xiao. Check it out!
This Week in Videogame Blogging is a roundup highlighting the most important critical writing on games from the past seven days.
Our opening section this week brings together three critiques which cut across both storytelling media and computing platforms, looking at process of translation, adaptation, critique, and narrativity.
- Pitfall II the Final: Pitfalls in History | Midlife Crisis Optional
LeeRoy Lewin explores artistry, authenticity, credits, and copyright in the 1980s-era practices of conversion and translation of games across hardware, with a focus on the SG-1000 conversion of Pitfall II.
- When it Comes to Inner Darkness, Kingdom Hearts 3 Can Show Malignant a Thing or Two – Uppercut
Ty Galiz-Rowe contemplates agency and autonomy, framed through moral conflict and delivered across stories and media.
- That Time a Punk Band Did Games Criticism – No Escape
Kaile Hultner reminisces about the time Propagandhi took the piss out of America’s Army.
“America’s Army may be little more than a ghost, barely kept alive by the PlayStation 4 and a military that refuses to give up on chances to ingratiate itself with youth much smarter than it, but it will never not be a recruiting tool for a dying, desperate empire. Even a Canadian punk band could see that in 2005.”
Here’s this week’s most tenuously-categorized section. The works gathered here touch upon different combinations of digital prophesying (both in and out-of-game), interactive fiction, and the shifting critical takeaways we get from games in different times and contexts.
- Waiting For It To End: Bloodborne and the Pandemic – Gamers with Glasses
Nathan Schmidt unpacks what Bloodborne has to say about pandemic approaches to time and endings.
- 2009: Fallen London | 50 Years of Text Games
Aaron A. Reed evaluates the history, success, social media savvy, and staying power of a three-million-plus-word story world and counting.
- A Mind Forever Grinding | Beach Milk
Christian McCrea speculates on the reasons why, despite the obvious injuroius outcomes and thunderously bad press, NFTs can and will have a particularly strong appeal in gaming contexts among players who desire a semblance of ownership in a world where they increasingly own materially less.
- A Mind Forever Voyaging  – Arcade Idea
Art Maybury evaluates the foreboding prophecies of the apocalyptic IF work A Mind Forever Voyaging, as well as the limitations and lapses of such a work within an American midcentury liberal worldview.
“I’ve gotten into reading about history in the past year or so, dabbling here and there. Something I’ve learned is that there really isn’t a floor — things can just get worse, and worse, and stay horrible for centuries on end. There’s some cold comfort in our ability to endure past those dark periods even dying in droves. But an upturn is never guaranteed, especially not by virtue of some kind of bounce-back. Something I’ve also learned about history is that as much as I often don’t feel that way, nothing is inevitable, not for the better or the worse. Everything is contingent. Other than forces of nature, it’s up to us.”
Three critical perturbations of that fuzzy boundary between players and player characters, looking at identity, queerness, and the constraints of story worlds.
- SSAMUS AARAN – DEEP HELL
Skeleton continues to unpack Samus as a character of contradictions, both in identity and ideology. Also, today I learned that our site doesn’t play well with corrupted text effects.
- Thanks to fans, Until Dawn is an iconic queer favourite | Gayming Magazine
Aimee Hart unpacks the queer subtext at play in the campy slasher favourite.
- Choose your fighter | KRITIQAL
Sam Moore talks identity and identification via the characters we choose in fighting games.
“I know nothing about Ivy’s story in Soul Calibur, or the Power Rangers that I use in Battle For the Grid, but I’m drawn to them and the fragments they represent; the parts of me they reflect in these environments much more easily than I could. It’s inherently fluid, as if by choosing a different character, I could change the parts of myself I’m putting out in the world. It makes every trip to the character select screen feel like a conversation.”
Four new critiques cutting across four different aspects of four different indie games.
- Review: No Longer Home Tenderly Examines Liminal Spaces | Sidequest
Naseem Jamnia muses on a tender, liminal game for a tense, liminal time.
- Lorn’s Lure is Silent Hill for rock climbers | Eurogamer.net
Grace Curtis offers a climber’s perspective on a tense game about climbing.
- Gas Station Simulator Is a Delightful Chore | Videodame
Khee Hoon Chan studies Gas Station Simulator as a meritocratic fantasy.
- BLACKTRANSSEA | The White Pube
Gabrielle de la Puente dwells on audience, exhibition, and agency in a game that drowns the colonisers in the sea.
“Ten minutes of play in this instance do a lot: the game puts us on the spot, tells us a story, and gives the player a challenge they cannot overcome in a game they cannot beat. It is a game that happens to the player, where fate is already decided — it is damning and fast about it (and abstract in a way that its damnation might take a minute to feel). It takes the active, generative aspect of play away from us and it gives us something else: an alternative history that would change the world as we know it. It is imaginative and natural, somewhere between folklore and horror. And I am glad the public will feel it.”
Next up, a pair of critiques on how we do reviews, both specifically and broadly.
- The video game review process is broken. It’s bad for readers, writers and games. | Launcher
Mikhail Klimentov argues for why and how the time-crunched, SEO-driven review cycle serves absolutely nobody.
- You Can Criticize the Cockfighting in Far Cry 6 Without Being Racist | Paste
Kate Sánchez breaks down how a little self-awareness of positionality can enrich your critical perspective.
“In truth, as the “discourse” shifts from “cockfighting bad” to “the people enjoying this minigame are bad,” it’s weird being brown in this space. I assure you the pixels on the screen are fine and the people making jokes and enjoying cockfighting Tekken are in on the joke and aren’t running their own operations in real life.”
In a bookend to our opening section this week, here are three critical intersections between game places and material spaces.
- Who Firewatches the Firewatchers? | itch.io
Caroline Delbert delves into the history and infrastructure which inform Firewatch and chats with a friend who took up the task in real life after playing the game.
- The Collector in Spiritfarer | Play the Past
Alvina Lai considers collection and curation practices in both Spritfarer and real-world libraries and archives.
- I Am On the Fitness Boxing to Powerlifting Pipeline | Sidequest
Madison Butler describes how fitness, gamified, became fitness, life-ified.
“The silly little boxing games had achieved what no magazine, class, membership, or fitness influencer could. I was invested in exercise because it was fun, because it made me feel strong. And even though I didn’t start out trying to break up the very monotonous cycle of working from home, making dinner, going to bed, and waking up to do it all over every day, it felt good to move my body. I started looking forward to it.”
I’m continuing to work my way through the submissions to KRITIQAL‘s Forgotten Games Essay Jam. Here’s another standout.
- Forever, watching Perseids by moniker ersatz | itch.io
Jemma meditates on trans joy, both fleeting and forever. Part of the Forgotten Games Essay Jam.
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Have you read, seen, heard or otherwise experienced something new that made you think about games differently? Send it in!